By Kate Mishkin
March 8, 2018 - The House quickly advanced a coal mining bill without much debate Wednesday.
Senate Bill 626 proposes a number of changes generally related to coal mining, including leaving safety plans to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, instead of to state regulators. They’re “needed changes,” Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, and chair of the Judiciary Committee, said on the floor Wednesday. The bill passed in the House on a 93-4 vote, but no one spoke for or against the bill.
The bill originated in the Senate, to which it will be sent back and then sent to Gov. Jim Justice to be signed, if the Senate agrees with House changes. The bill has moved quickly through the legislature, garnering criticism from some.
“It’s a complete fast track that really puts the public at a severe disadvantage to participate in the process,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, when the bill was introduced last month.
It’s not the only bill that’s moving quickly through the Legislature, as the end of this year’s General Assembly session draws near.
Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would make royalty payments on mineral rights more transparent. HB 4270 would require operators and producers to relay information, including contact information of the producer of the oil or natural gas, price received per unit of oil or natural gas and gross value of the total proceeds from the oil or natural gas to royalty owners.
The only change suggested in the committee would require the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to post the information it collects on its website in an agreed-upon amount of time, instead of a specific time frame. The amendment was passed unanimously on a voice vote.
“This is a very important piece of legislation to keep our royalty owners and people informed ... and I support this bill 110 percent,” said Charles Clements, R-Wetzel.
With another unanimous voice vote, the bill moved to the Senate floor.
Another bill, SB 290, that addresses the way the Department of Environmental Protection regulates water standards is set to be voted on in the House Thursday, with no new amendments or changes.
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